Chipmunks: Tree Squirrels

Tree chipmunks are often confused with chipmunks. However, they have different housing and housing requirements. We’ll tell you what to look out for.

The tree chipmunk is native to East Asia and Southeast Asia. It belongs to the croissant family and is directly related to the beautiful squirrels. The cute rodents look very similar to the chipmunks and are therefore often confused with them. This is mainly due to the fact that both types of squirrel have gray-brown fur and have five black stripes on their backs that run lengthways with a light stripe in between. The main differentiator is their way of life. As the name suggests, tree chipmunks live on trees – quite the opposite of chipmunks, which tend to live on the ground. “Baumis”, as they are affectionately known by their owners, also have small white tufts of fur on the tips of their ears, which also distinguishes them from the “Streifis”.

Asian Rainforest Inhabitants

The scientific name of the species of the tree chipmunk commonly kept is “Tamiops swinhoei”. In the trade, they are also often referred to as the Chinese tree chipmunk or dwarf chipmunk. Their wild relatives are at home in the tropical rainforests, but also in deciduous or coniferous forests. They prefer to live there in small groups in their tree hollows, jump from tree to tree, and feed mainly on nuts, seeds, and fruits. They can also be enjoyed as a snack for small insects.

Interesting Facts About the Tree Chipmunk

They have been known since the beginning of the 20th century and have also been kept as pets for several decades. Their body becomes about 10 to 16 centimeters long and their bushy tail measures another 10 centimeters. At 70 to a maximum of 120 grams, they are real lightweights. Most of them have a light belly. Their large protruding eyes are able to see attackers from the side or at an angle from behind, but they lack spatial vision. The small nose and the close-fitting ears give them a cute look. Compared to their small body, tree chipmunks have relatively large paws with five claws at the back and four claws at the front. The claws are usually a little longer and slightly curved inwards. They are used for climbing and to hold on to the food. Tree chipmunks have an average life expectancy of seven years but can also live up to 12 years. The lively rodents change their fur twice a year with the change of the seasons.

Pets Behave Appropriately

Tree chipmunks kept as pets do not hibernate as they get food all year round. They are diurnal, often at dusk, and sleep at night. Unlike chipmunks, they’re not loners. Like their wild relatives, pets should only be kept in groups or at least in pairs. As a group animal, they mark their territory by injecting urine. When they are excited, they can smell a little more intensely. Feces and urine are usually deposited where they are. They brush themselves extensively and lose a lot of hair, especially when they are changing their coat.

Keeping Tree Chipmunks

Baumis can be kept both inside and outside, but a warmer shelter must always be provided. A high aviary is recommended for tree dwellers. This should be at least two square meters in the base area and at least two meters high. This size is sufficient for two to three animals. Of course, the same applies here: the bigger the better! The aviary should be set up with various branches for climbing and nibbling, which at least partially reach all the way to the top. Seating boards, pipes, ropes, hammocks, and houses provide a varied environment. In addition, tree chipmunks need a sand or digging box for regular soil bathing and litter for the ground. Water and feed vessels complete the facility. In the case of indoor housing, you should also install a UV light that provides the animals with the sunlight they need for their vitamin D balance and which cannot be compensated for by their food.

Outdoor Housing is Recommended

If you take into account the partly odor-intensive area markings and their need for sunlight, there is a lot to be said for keeping tree chipmunks outside. The outdoor aviary should be placed in such a way that it gives its inhabitants both sun and shade so that the animals can decide for themselves where they want to stay. The enclosure should be closed all around and consist mainly of mesh or wire. Since the teeth of the cute rodents are very sharp and strong, you should make sure that the grid is not too thin, otherwise, they will just bite through it. A small mesh size of a maximum of 12 to 15 millimeters is also recommended. The aviary should have a solid floor or a tub so that the croissants cannot dig their way down and no predators can get into the enclosure.

In addition, the enclosure should be roofed over, set up in a sheltered place, and protected from drafts. The ideal location is a covered terrace that still offers direct sunlight. Sleeping boxes, which are equipped with plenty of coconut fibers or hemp wool, keep the small bodies warm even at low temperatures. In addition, their fur automatically adjusts to cold or warmth. In order to get them used to living outside at an early stage, Baumis should move outside by early summer at the latest.

The Diet of Tree Chipmunks

The main food for tree chipmunks consists of various seeds and nuts. You can either mix this yourself or buy it ready-made from specialist retailers. To do this, they should be given fresh vegetables. Various types of fruit are also on their menu. Their feed is rounded off with hay or dried grass and herbs. You also need tree and grain seeds, which are often already contained in ready-made mixes. The plant-based food components should be supplemented with animal proteins. For example, you can occasionally offer your croissants mealworms or house crickets. These are also available in dried form from specialist retailers.

Never Keep Tree Chipmunks Alone

Tree chipmunks, unlike chipmunks, should never be kept alone. They need the company of their fellows. To avoid rapid reproduction, you should opt for group housing of same-sex animals. It does not matter whether it is only male or only female croissants. Nevertheless, the Baumis quickly become tame if you deal with them and, for example, hand them food or snacks.


Tree chipmunks have higher demands on keeping than normal chipmunks. They live on trees and therefore need high aviaries for species-appropriate housing. For health and well-being, they need regular sunlight, which can be simulated with special UV lights when kept indoors. Baumis are not only living beings that are easy to observe, with a little patience they quickly become trusting.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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